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Japanese Paper Art and How to Fold your Own

Updated on October 29, 2014

Origami: Japanese Paper Art For Everyone

Origami, the art of paper folding, has been popular since the early seventh century,

Perhaps you first saw this magical technique as a child, did you make one of the famous paper Peace Cranes in school ? Seeing an ordinary piece of paper turn into some type of creature or toy is fascinating. How is it done?

In only a few minutes you will be folding paper before you know it. Here's how to make a few simple items and directions to more intricate Japanese Paper Art.

Warning : Once you get started it's very hard to stop!

I really want to make some origami doodly things. After some frustrating attempts, I picked out the best youtube videos and now I'm getting stuck into it. Wish me luck, I just can't seem to fold them!

You gotta know when to hold em, know when to fold em

Creating Business Card Origami

I thought I'd try my luck at making an Origami Business Card Cube.

To be honest, I had dreams of amazing my friends and earning the admiration of a small grandson, but the result wasn't really what I had hoped for.

If you can get a good-looking result, please let me know.

Beautiful Business Card Origami

Business Card Origami from Nancy Oram

How about you? Can you compare with Nancy?

Origami - the basics

Pureland origami is a style of origami that is done by creating only one fold at a time.

  • A valley fold is the first basic fold, in which you fold the paper forward onto itself
  • A mountain fold is the second basic fold, in which the paper is folded behind itself. An easier way to do this is to turn the paper over first and then do a valley fold and turn the paper back over again
  • A pleat fold is several evenly-spaced parallel mountain and valley folds. Also called an "accordion fold."
  • A radial pleat fold is an angled pleat fold, usually with a focus point on an edge or corner.
  • A blintz fold is made by folding the corners of a square into the center. This can be achieved with higher accuracy by folding and unfolding two reference creases through the center.

Dollar Origami

Amaze yourself with the designs in Dollar Origami.

As origami-wizard, Won Park, says "A dollar won't buy you a camera or a shark—but there is a way to make it into one"!

Not for the beginner, more for someone who can make teeny, weeny folds.

If you've got a little bit of origami practice behind you, this is just inspiring!

Origami Creations by Won Park

Click thumbnail to view full-size

History of Origami

Samurai would exchange gifts with a form known as a noshi, a paper folded with a strip of dried fish or meat, as a good luck token. Shinto Noblemen would celebrate weddings by wrapping glasses of sake or rice wine in butterfly forms that had been folded to represent the bride and groom.

As easier papermaking methods were developed, paper became less expensive and origami became a popular art for everyone.

For centuries there were no written directions for folding origami models but passed down by example over the generations. Then, in 1797, a book was published containing the first written set of origami instructions. That book was How to Fold 1000 Cranes.

According to ancient legend, if a person folded 1000 cranes, they would be granted one wish.

Origami can represent social causes, but it's still the simple art of paperfolding, available to anyone with a little patience - and a lot of time - on their hands

One Thousand Paper Cranes

Ten years after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Sadako Sasaki died from leukemia from the radiation.. Before she died, Sadako determined to fold one thousand paper cranes.

An ancient Japanese legend promises that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish by a crane, such as long life or recovery from illness or injury.

The crane in Japan is one of the mystical or holy beasts (others include the dragon and tortoise), and is said to live for a thousand years.

This is the story of the Thousand Paper Cranes .....

How to fold a Peace Crane

Did you do these at school? I wish we had videos available when I was trying to make mine.

A Heart for a Valentine

A beautiful accessory for your table setting

Origami Angel

Origami Magic Ball for Holiday Decorations

Even I managed to make this!

Kirigami! More Japanese Paper Art

Kirigami is another form of folding paper where you are allowed to make small cuts in the paper.

I remember these from school, we seemed to spend a lot of time making paper snowflakes. Unfolding the paper snowflake was always a delightful surprise because it's almost impossible to make the exact pattern twice! Just like a real snowflake.

In origami, papercutting is frowned upon as it's considered that cutting is unnecessary for a skilled folder. But let's face it, we aren't all artists and kirigami is much easier to do than pure origami.

Origami Essentials

Essential Origami: How To Build Dozens of Models from Just 10 Easy Bases
Essential Origami: How To Build Dozens of Models from Just 10 Easy Bases

In addition to more than 1,000 step-by-step illustrations, Essential Origami contains helpful paper-folding tips, note-worthy trivia, and fascinating explanations that illuminate the worlds of both ancient and contemporary origami. A compendium to delight the novice and the expert alike.


The Art of Origami is Universal

Origami also flourished in other parts of the world.

Arabs brought the techniques of papermaking to North Africa, and in the eighth century the Moors carried the skill to Spain. The Moors, a strict religious people, were forbidden to create representational figures so their paper folding was geometric. You can see this in the stars and boxes we still make.

Modern origami was popularised in the 1930s when Akira Yoshizawa designed thousands of models of various subjects. His work was exhibited through the West and inspired new generations of paperfolders.

The art form continues to evolve and is now beyond the traditional origami.

Styles and techniques include: technical origami, mathematical origami, contemporary origami, modular origami, wet folding origami, pureland origami, dollar bill origami, and business card origami.

© 2009 Susanna Duffy

Fold me a comment ....

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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Not sure if I have enough time to do the more complex ones but origami is cool

    • FancyThatUK profile image


      5 years ago

      I love Origami! I use youtube videos to learn how to fold them

    • worldwidesouven profile image


      5 years ago

      My wife and my daughter make some origami toys - very beautiful, love them. Thanks for your lens.

    • PinkstonePictures profile image


      6 years ago from Miami Beach, FL

      The Geisha paper art looks so sweet

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Origami looks so great in all different types colors and shapes. Love it

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Great site! My 13-year-old daughter makes 3D Origami birds. Care to visit her etsy shop at ? Thanks.

    • jasminedessy profile image


      6 years ago

      Nice lens for the art

      I like it & I love it


    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I've never tried origami, and suspect my patience level isn't up to it! The results for those with the patience are beautiful, though.

    • ForestBear LM profile image

      ForestBear LM 

      6 years ago

      Wow these are great. I love origami, now I feel like getting back into it. Thank you for reminding me

    • profile image

      Deadicated LM 

      6 years ago

      I love all paperarts, I enjoyed your Lens.

    • profile image

      Deadicated LM 

      6 years ago

      I love all paperarts, I enjoyed your Lens.

    • cajkovska lm profile image

      cajkovska lm 

      6 years ago

      Thanks for the informations... I will try to make some of those :)

    • Seasons Greetings profile image

      Laura Brown 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I tried origami from a kit once but I wasn't fussy enough to get it all 'just right'.

    • LouisaDembul profile image


      7 years ago

      I have a Japanese friend. While we sit and drink coffee her hands are working by themselves, and she produces little origami animals.

    • WildFacesGallery profile image


      7 years ago from Iowa

      Beautifully done lens. I haven't folded origami in years but I do so love the cranes.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I love origami! Great lens!

      Thank you so very much - Helene Malmsio (aka SCSS)

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 

      7 years ago from Colorado

      Perhaps I should begin my 1,000 cranes journey. I have always loved beautiful Japanese art papers and practiced more origami when I first started teaching many, many moons ago. My students loved origami projects (their favorite was a pig with a moving snout). You have some interesting challenges here. I will have to give it a go. Thanks for the instructions. Appreciated!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Love your designs and love origami. I wish I could do it right. I bought some origami paper and gave it a try - making a flower. It just didn't look right. You're lucky - you have the technique down!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Origami is great fun - I started doing it when I was about 14 years old. I still make the occasional Crane for birthday gift trimmings (for longevity and good fortune)

    • Franksterk profile image

      Frankie Kangas 

      7 years ago from California

      Thank you for this wonderful lens. I love origami peace cranes. A friend of mine years ago made 1000 of these for her wedding for I thought good luck or happiness. Alas, the wedding didn't last but the memory does. Blessed. Bear hugs, Frankster

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Didn't know I was doing kirigami when I made paper snowflakes! I guess my strings of paper people holding hands qualifies also. Interesting lens. Did Sadako meet her goal of a 1000 cranes before she died? Wasn't clear on that.

    • CruiseReady profile image


      7 years ago from East Central Florida

      A book on Oragami and some papers to go with it would sure make a nice Christmas present for a young teenaged girl, I think.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Wow! Looks too good and too intricate a handiwork! :)

    • jlshernandez profile image


      7 years ago

      I love origami and I only know how to make a few of them. The crab origami made of a dollar bill looks difficult to do but a challenge. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      nice lens, very creative

    • phoenix arizona f profile image

      phoenix arizona f 

      7 years ago

      Great form of art.

    • TolovajWordsmith profile image

      Tolovaj Publishing House 

      7 years ago from Ljubljana

      Origami is great for kids, it improves eye-hand coordination and is great for fine mechanics.

    • FanfrelucheHubs profile image

      Nathalie Roy 

      8 years ago from France (Canadian expat)

      I love origami, I am just not good at it, no matter how precise the instructions are. Mine always end up looking like a piece of crumbled paper. Blessed.

    • dogface lm profile image

      dogface lm 

      8 years ago

      Wow, never heard of kirigami! Thanks for sharing

    • joanv334 profile image


      8 years ago

      Hello, thanks for sharing!

    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 

      8 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      Love the lens, love the new theme with it:)

    • KathyMcGraw2 profile image

      Kathy McGraw 

      8 years ago from California

      I like this lens a lot ;) I had to come back and see it :)

    • mrniceguy11 profile image


      8 years ago

      Beautiful use of the new feature. Nice work.

    • Gloriousconfusion profile image

      Diana Grant 

      8 years ago from United Kingdom

      Very nice lens - Angel Blessings from me

    • choosehappy profile image


      8 years ago from US

      *blessed* by a squid angel;)

      New theme looks great with this topic.

    • KarenTBTEN profile image


      8 years ago

      "...know when to hold em, know when to fold em." Hmmm. When you see the paper spider, it might be time to walk away... or run.

    • Dianne Loomos profile image

      Dianne Loomos 

      8 years ago

      I've never done origami but it sure is fascinating!

    • Richard-H profile image


      8 years ago from Surrey, United Kingdom

      Origami has always fascinated me. Some cool creations here and the new theme fits so well :)

    • Wednesday-Elf profile image


      8 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      I love the look of this lens in the new theme. I've never tried origami folding, but will have to give it a try. I always try to add one new 'never-done-or-tried-before' accomplishment each year -- perhaps origami is this year's 'New'. :-)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I think origami is so fascinating! It fits well on the new theme!

    • dustytoes profile image


      8 years ago

      Attractive and interesting lens and I like the new theme which gives it a very clean look.

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 

      8 years ago from UK

      The origami is beautiful... and so is the theme! A perfect match, I'd say.

    • justholidays profile image


      8 years ago

      Clean, simple, clear... The content and the template look simply... stunning.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      As always, your lenses are delightful. I love paper and origami and am a crane folder from way back. Beautiful use of the new theme, too.

    • tandemonimom lm profile image

      tandemonimom lm 

      8 years ago

      Folderol! Great lens!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Nicely done lens and the New York theme and new Polaroid module look very nice here. Gotta love that quote from the song "The Gambler.'

      This reminded me of the book bindery in Portland with the slogan "Our business is folding."

    • Elle-Dee-Esse profile image

      Lynne Schroeder 

      8 years ago from Blue Mountains Australia

      This is fabulous . I was never very good at origami but my son loves making cranes. The new theme looks fantastic here.

    • ZenandChic profile image


      8 years ago

      Very nice! I like the new theme here!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I can barely contain no not cuz of the new theme...I want to run over to my desk and grab a handful of business cards and make that Business Card Cube ;) Focus Kathy, Focus....this will be my treat for getting my work done first ;)

    • giacombs-ramirez profile image

      gia combs-ramirez 

      8 years ago from Montana

      I like the new theme and this lens!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Never gotten into paper art too much, have done some. I really do like the art.

      Folding paper is fun to with kids and teach them about it. I learned how to cute out designs and shapes out of paper from my grandmother as a kid. If I can visualize something, I can cute it out free hand. My grandkids usually want animal cute outs.

    • paperfacets profile image

      Sherry Venegas 

      9 years ago from La Verne, CA

      Thanks for visiting TBF. I lensrolled you back on my Part Two lens. That spider is awesome.

    • Nancy S Oram profile image

      Nancy Oram 

      9 years ago

      Okay, I took your challenge and made the business card box. I'm sending you a photo through your "contact me."

    • Brewsterboy profile image


      10 years ago

      Nice lens! Thanks! Five stars!


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